Sarkozy Talks EU in Dublin

DUBLIN -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened talks in Ireland on Monday, seeking a way to overcome Irish voters' rejection of the European Union reform treaty.

Sarkozy, the reigning president of the European Council, emphasized that he was coming to Dublin to learn why 53 percent of Irish voters last month rejected the Lisbon Treaty, a painstakingly negotiated blueprint for reshaping the EU's institutions and powers.

Ireland is the only EU member constitutionally required to subject treaties to a national vote, and an EU treaty cannot become law unless every member ratifies it.

Dodging a collection of protesters, the French president shook hands with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen on the steps of his central Dublin office. Sarkozy and Cowen "have committed themselves to act in close cooperation to find a way to push the Union forward," the French statement said.

Police kept about 1,000 protesters from dozens of groups from getting close to Sarkozy's motorcade.

Anti-treaty activists in Ireland say the June 12 vote means the treaty is dead and EU negotiators must start from scratch. Sarkozy insists that isn't going to happen and some compromise formula must be found to permit Ireland to vote again.

Still, Sarkozy took pains not to appear to force a new vote on the Irish.

"[Sarkozy will] respect the result of the Irish referendum," the French statement said.

Others insisted on new talks.

"Brian Cowen must call for a new round of negotiations and a new treaty," said Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, one of several anti-treaty activists meeting Monday with Sarkozy at the French Embassy.

"One of the core underlying reasons for voting 'no' was the fact that people sense a lack of democratic accountability and control of power slipping away," said Patricia McKenna, head of an anti-treaty pressure group called the People's Movement, also meeting with Sarkozy.